Keep Learning in Every Position
Author: Mike Scaletti
It's worth remembering that every job you ever take, no matter how brief or inconsequential seeming, has value to your overall career path. Even if you hated a position, there are still things to learn and grow from. Indeed, often times you can grow and learn more from a negative job experience than from a positive one.
The key is to find those learning moments, whether new skills or new experiences, so that you can internalize them and grow into a more well rounded employee for your overall career path. It may take some introspection and analysis to realize what lessons a job provided, especially if the experience was primarily negative, but those lessons are there if you know how to look at them.
All Experience is Valuable
Often, especially if you're just beginning your career or have recently changed careers, you may find yourself in what feels like a "dead end job". The reality is there is no such thing. You are developing skills and gaining experience that will be with you forever, you just have to look for them. Once you do, you will start to realize how valuable every career experience you have is. This can be especially true if you are taking an indirect career path, like I did!
Most people's first jobs are in the service industry. The reality is that, even though workers are slowly pushing for better conditions, these positions tend to be overworked and underpaid. I have lots of great memories from the service industry, but the truth is I wouldn't go back to it if I could help it. Still, there are valuable lessons to be learned even there. For example, the service industry requires quick thinking, creative problem solving, customer service skills, and flexibility. Those lessons, once learned, will remain with you for the rest of your career. For most people, the service industry isn't their desired field, so if you can find the value there, how much will you find once you transition over to that field.
Look for the Positives
There is no such thing as a perfect job. Some jobs are better than others, and some might even approach perfection for you, but there will always be bad moments and negative experiences. That's just the reality. The trick is to try to find good moments to go along with them. Challenge yourself to seek out the positive experiences, even in a negative environment. This doesn't mean ignoring or discounting the negative, but if you can find a lesson to learn or a positive to compliment the experience, for example learning to recognize toxic or destructive patterns so that you can avoid or repair them in the future, than your overall work experience will be much more enjoyable and rewarding. Remember that often times, the lessons you can learn from a negative experience can serve as guidelines for what to avoid going forward.
If you have worked for bosses who are overly critical, or micromanaging, or unwilling to explore change, for example, these can provide you with a guide for how to approach leadership when you eventually find yourself in that position.
Many jobs will have a self review process that employees go through on a regular basis. The reason for this is that being introspective and analytical about yourself in your current position will often help you have a more rewarding and valuable experience. Take a look at what you are doing well, as well as what you could be doing better. This will allow you to direct some focus on your own performance and not simply on the position you are filling. It can be tempting at times to place full responsibility for your career woes on your job, but the reality is there are often steps you can take to improve your environment and performance.
Do you find yourself getting frustrated with some particular aspect of your job? Take a look at what parts of that aspect you can control and then decide on the steps you need to take to to improve it. Once you have taken all of the proactive steps available to you, you will not only have gained valuable experience in making the most of your position, but will also hopefully have reduced your frustration levels and found yourself with a more accurate understanding of your job.
Be Open Minded
The final piece of advice I'll leave you with is to be open minded in every position you find yourself in. This is especially true in temp or part time work you might take. You never know what skill you pick up or connection you make that might end up leading to your dream job. I can personally attest that the job I disliked most over the course of my career, for varying reasons, directly lead to me acquiring the skills that put me in the position I have now, which is absolutely my favorite job I've ever head.
As a theater director once said to me, "Keep your eyes and ears open, you just might learn something."